A dear friend of mine has breast cancer. This past year she’s been through rounds upon rounds of chemo, radiation, a double mastectomy, tests, more tests and now she has a lump starting on her chest wall.
We live two hours away and I’ve been a bad friend, caught up in the dumpster fire that is my own life and only been able to be present for her online.
But this week somehow luck was on my side, and I was able to go and visit with her.
I don’t want to talk about my feelings on the drive up, but I think it may be pertinent to the rest of the post.
The drive was relatively pleasant, but I was riddled with sadness, anxiety and melancholy. I forgot how to be a friend and I was terrified that I was going to fail supporting her, fail at our friendship.
I was so good to see her, she met the kids and I on the street… it was a relief to just be able to hug her and see her smile and hear her voice.
We wandered in and got situated caught up a bit, and talked.
The health system has failed her in so many ways, from late (stage 3) diagnosis to missed meds to minimal mental health support, and she’s frustrated to say the least.
But as we talked she brought up the amount of times she had told a loved one of her prognosis, and had to hold them while they cried, support her loved ones in their grief and shock.
She talked about how everyone seems to have disappeared and are in denial of the severity of her condition. Armchair cheerleaders as it were…
“You got this you strong woman!!”
I told her I cried when she sent me the news. I didn’t tell her I laid on the floor of my kitchen sobbing until my body screamed in pain after putting the kids in their cribs.
My grandmother had this cancer… this is bad… this is terrifying
But, my feelings are my responsibility, and its my job to manage them while minimizing the impact on the person that I’m emotionally responding to.
I could see her body shudder with sadness and defeat talking about it all. I told her it’s human nature… the brain does remarkable things to protect itself from pain.
“What can I do for you?” I asked in all of it.
“Visit… spend time.” She replied quietly.
Oh boy… I know this feeling all too well.
So she’s there, two hours away, and I’m here with two tiny people in tow, and my heart hurts for her. My heart hurts for her teen daughter.
I watched my grandmother do the same thing, and she had three different cancers at three different points in life, and time was really the big answer.
Time is the only answer.
But denial is like a big padded bandage on a deep and painful wound. Keep that bandage on and we won’t have to deal with the wound. But, we forget that wounds get infected, they fester if we don’t tend to them.
Armchair cheerleaders have good intentions, and the path to hell is paved with good intentions.
The dumpster fire that is my life came up, and I posed my daily question. Wheres my Village?
It takes a village to raise a child, I got a two for one deal, and no village. The few people willing and able to help are too far away, and after almost three years here, due to the isolation of parenthood, and further isolation of my life, I’m here alone with my kids and their dad (and he doesn’t get it)
But it’s really the same.
People are there for you until there’s a birth, trauma, illness or death. Then they pay lip service to how strong you are, and carry on in life.
I’m strong because I’m the only one lifting. So is she.
Many hands make light work, yet its so easy to refrain from pitching in because “someone else will do it”, or it can’t be that bad, or whatever.
Where’s the village? This many hands business, that thing we evolved to live within, in safety and security.. bonded loved and cared for while bonding and loving and caring?
Maybe its gone the way of Roanoke.
But people are people, and our culture fears death and illness, fears reminders of our own mortality, fears taking responsibility for their emotions or their role in the village.
And then we fail each other in support, fail at friendship, and fail ourselves. And sit down at the end of the day with regret… Anxious that it’s too late.
But it’s never too late, until its over. The one thing in life that’s certain is that it’s time. Right now.
Time to reach out.
Time to listen.
Time to face your fears.
Time to be there, and be better.
And time for bed for me. (It’s 2 am)